Sense & Centsibility Blog

Five Steps of Financial Help-Seeking

BillI read a study in the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning (Volume 25, Issue 2, 2014, 148-160), and something in it immediately caught my eye. The study itself was about financial stress, self-efficacy, and financial help-seeking behavior of college students. But the part that stuck out to me was something the study cited from previous research.

The study states that “The financial help-seeking process consists of five stages:

  1. the exhibition of financial behaviors 
  2. the evaluation of own financial behaviors
  3. the identification of the causes of financial behaviors
  4. the decision to seek help
  5. the choice among help assistance options."

My experiential evidence from years as a counselor would seem to corroborate those findings, for the most part.

I can’t help but wonder: What stage might you, the reader of this blog, be in? Isn’t reading a financial blog a help-seeking action in its very nature? I mean, this isn’t Shakespeare. And I doubt anyone is reading this specifically because they just can’t get enough commentary on academic studies. I assume that you, dear reader, are here because you’re looking for something. I assume that you are somewhere in that help-seeking process. Stage 2, perhaps? Maybe Stage 3?

Sometimes when counseling someone, I get the impression that they are seeking help, which should be a Stage 4 decision, but that they’re really just in Stage 1. They know they are late on the mortgage but aren’t sure why they can’t keep up; or they know their credit card debts are feeling a little out of control but they aren’t sure exactly how things got to that point. It makes me wonder if maybe they are seeking help with Stage 2. Maybe they are just trying to figure out what’s wrong in the first place.

But regardless of the stage they are in, I have a lot of respect for anyone who is engaged in that process. It takes some courage and it takes some humility to be willing to ask yourself two big questions: 1) What am I doing wrong; and 2) Who can help me fix it?

So here’s what I think. If you’re reading here and you are somewhere in those five stages, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help, no matter which stage you’re in. If you are just trying to sort through why you’re in whatever spot you’re in, I think that’s great. You made it to our blog; go to our website to take your help-seeking one step further by making an appointment.